Rally draws more than 100 from as far as Tyler, Fort Worth
DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
The LGBT community marked the 41st anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion and the first anniversary of the Rainbow Lounge raid with a rally, march and candlelight vigil on Sunday evening, June 27 in Downtown Dallas.
A crowd of about 150 gathered outside the Dallas County Records Building at 6:30 p.m. Elizabeth Pax energized the crowd before a march through downtown.
Event organizer Daniel Cates said he was inspired by the words of gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk, who encouraged the LGBT community to march down Main Street. From Historical Plaza in front of the Records building, marchers proceeded down Commerce Street, turned the corner at Neiman Marcus and returned to the square walking hand-in-hand while chanting along Main Street.
The march took about 30 minutes and was led by a group representing each letter in LGBT. They carried a banner that said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Another banner read, “Full federal equality now.”
Signs said things like, “Adam & Steve. Madam & Eve. It’s all good” and “Wake Up America. Being homophobic kills. Equality now.”
Several signs remembered Milk.
“Harvey Milk. American politician who became the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, winning the seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors,” one sign read.
Shannon Kern, a straight ally, served as emcee of the rally that followed the march.
“Burst down those closet doors because you are perfect the way you are,” Kern said.
Jesse Garcia of Dallas gay LULAC council told the crowd to vote and encouraged straight allies to do the same. He challenged the group to reach out to fellow minorities who understand that the fight is for civil rights, and to stick together and not bow to forces that want the community to turn against itself.
When Rafael McDonnell from Resource Center Dallas spoke, he began by asking how many were attending their first gay-rights rally. About a quarter of the crowd cheered.
Get Equal Now activist Michael Robinson reminded the crowd of last week’s DART non-discrimination victory.
“Lock me up and set me free,” said activist Chastity Kirven. She was referring to her arrest at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office while protesting inaction on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
Kirven led the group in several chants including “One struggle, one fight,” driving home the evening’s theme of unity.
Referring to the handful of anti-gay counterprotesters from a Mansfield church who’ve become a fixture at local LGBT events, Kirven questioned their morality.
“When they want to look into your bedroom, who’s the pervert?” Kirven shouted.
Renee Baker spoke on behalf of the transgender community and, as a Youth First Texas board member, on behalf of young people.
“I’m doing this for our youth,” she said. “They’re taking the brunt of this because they’re still in the public schools.”
Nonnie Ouch, president of the Gay Straight Alliance at Texas Tech University, also mentioned the counterprotesters.
“Let’s not be like our enemy who cowers behind his theology,” she said.
Cates responded to the Mansfield group’s signs saying homosexuality is a choice that does not deserve “special rights.”
“I’ll tell you what’s a choice. Religion is a choice and it’s protected by the constitution,” Cates said.
Cates finished his remarks by thanking the Republican Party of Texas for defining their hatred of gays and lesbians so heinously in its platform that it’s being ridiculed in the national media.
The Rev. Steve Sprinkle of Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth spoke about the response to last June’s Rainbow Lounge raid. He said the event united Dallas and Fort Worth into one LGBT community to produce an appropriate response.
He said while the goal of police was to harass and humiliate, the LGBT community showed it won’t be intimidated.
A candlelight vigil followed to remember those no longer with us.
Spencer Young, from the cast of the Tyler production of “The Laramie Project,” which right-wingers tried to cancel, remembered Nicholas West during the vigil.
West was 23 when he was kidnapped from a Tyler park and murdered on Dec. 30, 1993. Young compared that murder to Matthew Shepard’s five years later. As he told the story, the clock in the tower above Old Red eerily tolled the hour.
Pax ended the evening by leading the crowd in rounds of “We Shall Overcome.”